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I have to admit it. This one hits a little close to home.

Recently, I’ve been stuck doing someone else’s job.  I don’t mind helping someone out.  But I’m a volunteer.  She gets paid to do it and hasn’t for months.  And did I get even a thank you?  Um, no.  Her attitude toward me is distant on good days and on bad days it is even worse.

My attitude? I’ve been whining.  Or whinging, depending on which spelling you prefer.  As my grandmother would say, I have been a bitter pill.

Oddly enough, her attitude hasn’t gotten any better.

I can’t do much about her attitude, but I sure could do something about mine.  It is time to stop fussing.  God does, so I am told, love a cheerful giver.  It’s about time I stepped up and started being one.



It’s a new year! Well, sort of. Advent marks the start of a new liturgical year in the Catholic Church. I suppose it is apropos that the new year begins with waiting. We spend such a vast amount of time doing it, after all: waiting in line (or “on line” if you’re from the Midwest), waiting for doctors and plumbers and cable repair persons, waiting for mail to arrive and children to get dressed and pets to do their business. Waiting to eat, to sleep, to give birth, to die.

All of life is waiting, in a way. Advent merely provides additional practice. But what are we waiting for? For a child to be born into a manger? That already happened. For that child to come again? Yes, but that’s constant, not necessarily Advent-specific. I think we’re really waiting for a change of heart.

Remember how you felt at Christmastime when you were a child? Remember when just seeing lights strung on houses and carols being sung could lift your heart right up to your throat? Somewhere along the line, we lose that sense of wonder. How can we get it back? Maybe that’s the challenge of Advent.

My father-in-law was manning the bell and kettle for the Salvation Army one Christmas, outside of a store, when a little boy — obviously disabled — came struggling up to him. In his mittened hand, he held a clutch of crumpled dollar bills. His mother explained that it was his Christmas money; he wanted to donate it to people who really needed it. My father-in-law still tells this tale with tears in his eyes.

This advent, I am waiting for that little boy — his spirit, anyway — to rise up in me like a tide and wash away my grown-up skepticism and wariness. I want to receive Christmas as purely and joyfully as a child. And I want to give away that pure joy as rapidly as it spools into my heart. I think that’s a worthy thing to wait for. Don’t you?

Coat crib and Hat and Mitten Tree (2010)

One coat, one pair of mittens, isn’t much. Added with the gifts of others, many will be warmed.

Every day, when we bring in the mail, there is another envelope.  Someone is asking for money.  Help the orphans.  Help the homeless.  Help the hungry.

As much as I want to help, the need is overwhelming.  I freeze up.   I know I have a lot to be grateful for, but in the face of so much need, how can I really help?

Last weekend my son participated in Scouting for Food.  One Saturday, the boys drop off bags and ask people to donate just a few cans.  Just what you can.

What most people don’t realize is how these little bits add up.  The Saturday after the boys drop off the bags, they pick them up.  It always takes a bigger crew of bigger boys this second week and when the numbers rolled in this year I found out why.

They collected over 2 million food items.  That’s right.  2,000,000 plus.  That’s the highest total they’ve reached in five years.  Think of all the food pantries that will be helped.  Think of all the families who will have food on their tables.  The boys collected over 2 million items because people like you and I each gave a few cans.  No single bag looks like much but taken together they are quite a haul.

This holiday season open your heart.  Listen for God.  Then pick a charity.  Focus on a particular cause.  Then, give what you can.  Maybe it is just an afternoon spent packing boxes at the local food pantry.  Or a single toy.  Or a coat.

One toy and one coat don’t look like much.  Neither did one small bag of cans.  But taken together our small donations can do a lot of good for those in need more than ever now that the weather has turned cold.


Have a Mary Little Christmas

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